A PARENT’S GUIDE TO CHARACTER
A PERSON OF CHARACTER…
Emphasize – emphasize a pillar each month:
- work as a family to build character in the emphasized area
- write “family rules” relating to each pillar
- catch one another doing the right thing
As a parent, you can help your child have realistic expectations by:
· making expectations as clear and predictable as possible
· giving adequate explanation when there is a change
· involving children in creating the rule they are to follow
· explaining that although certain rights are due everyone equally, others are earned with age and increased responsibility
· making sure your own behavior is what you want your children to model. For example: Do you ask your child to tell a caller you aren’t home?
· talking about trust. Be realistic, but avoid creating fearfulness of others.
1. Use fables, stories and literature that teach lessons. Use news reports, television shows, and real life stories to illustrate what trustworthiness looks like, feels like and why it is so important.
2. Play “What would you do?” Use real or made-up situations to present children with hypothetical conflicts to work out. These pretend situations give children safe opportunities to practice making choices and discuss possible solutions.
3. Make a “Family Pledge” sheet. Have family members sign their names to statements about telling the truth, returning what they borrow and keeping their word.
4. Build a “Tower of Trustworthiness.” Use blocks and post-it notes. As the child does things at home that build their trustworthiness, write it on a post-it note and attach it to a block. As their actions multiply, the tower grows. If something happens to diminish trust, take blocks off. Children need to know that building trust takes time and when trust is broken, it takes even more time to rebuild it again.
Would you like it? Respect is placing concern for others equal to or above concern for yourself. This is hard for young children to grasp. You may want to start with a series of questions about how they would feel in certain circumstances and then move to The Golden Rule. For example, offer a discussion based on “Would you like it if someone: called you a name?…pushed you out of line?…teased you?”
Manners. Talk about and demonstrate good manners including “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me.” Then give your children a chance to catch other family members when they are using good manners and thank them for being considerate. Be sure to catch your child when he/she uses good manners too!
Respect for families and traditions. Encourage children to listen to and learn from older family members, especially grandparents.
How do we show respect? One effective way for students to learn about respect is to identify what it looks like. Provide an opportunity for them to hear from you how you show respect…to yourself, to your family, to animals, to property, to the rights of others, to our country, etc.
Respect through language. You know the expression: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Identify an experience to share with your children of hurtful words you still remember from your childhood. Discuss with your children how they want people to speak to them and talk about how language – including the tone of our voice – can show respect. Use examples to discuss your family’s beliefs regarding each of these:
- How does the tone or volume of our voice show respect or disrespect?
- Has the way we address elders changed? How can we show them respect?
- Are words of courtesy important? How do they show respect?
- How does swearing show a lack of respect toward others?
- How can our language show we are respectful of other people’s abilities and feelings?
Help your child think about responsibilities they have every day in taking care of themselves: brushing their teeth, bathing, getting dressed, going to school on time, listening in class, doing homework, keeping their room clean, household chores, etc. Work with your child to make a chart of his/her responsibilities. You can then use this chart as a reminder or use stickers or magnets for your child to mark when the responsibility has been done for each day.
Work on responsibility with pets that you may have in your home. Make a list of the special needs your pet has and talk about who needs to be responsible for meeting those needs. Discuss the possible consequences to your pet if the needs aren’t met. Make a list of responsibilities and who will do them. Offer a rotation of the chores for your pet, especially if you have children who will share the responsibility.
Talk with your child about the various ways that people get around in your community: bikes, skateboards, in-line skates, etc. Talk about responsibilities that go along with each and potential consequences if people are not responsible.
Use a simple plan for helping your child make decisions.
(1) STOP – realize you have a choice to make;
(2) THINK – think about the people who might be affected by the choice;
(3) LISTEN – listen to your feelings and thoughts about the choices and what your family has said about the choices;
(4) TRUST – you know the right thing to do – trust yourself to do it;
(5) ACT – make the decision and be willing to take the consequences for the choice you make – good or bad.
5. Excuses, excuses, excuses – children often will have many excuses for not fulfilling responsibilities: “I’m too tired,” “I forgot” or “I’ll do it later.” Talk about what an excuse is and to what extent your family will allow their use. For example, if a child says, “I’ll do it later,” allow them to set the specific time they will have it done and then hold them to it. Be definite about the consequences about not getting it done by their chosen time – try not to argue with them – give them the responsibility and the consequence and let them make their choice
1. THE GOLDEN RULE, in one version or another, has a prominent place in all major religions. Discuss with your children: How could you apply The Golden Rule to actions at home and school?
2. Provide opportunities for your child to participate in making family decisions when you need to involve everyone’s input. For example, choosing a place to eat. Set the parameters (cost, time involved, etc.).Does FAIR mean EQUAL? As a family, have each person answer the following questions from their perspective and discuss how decisions feel differently from different perspectives. Talk about ways you can clearly set expectations so that decisions don’t feel unfair.
- Is it fair to have different bedtimes for different family members?
- Is it fair for some family members to have more chores than others?
- Can you think of a time when it would be fair for one family member to get more attention than others?
- Have your family members think of examples at school, home or in the community where the answers to “Does FAIR mean EQUAL?” may sometimes be yes and sometimes be no.
4. Find opportunities to discuss with your children examples of when people are not treated fairly.
For example: historical treatment of people with disabilities, racism, homelessness, hunger, pollution, etc. Help children identify ways that they can help make life a little better and a little fairer concerning these issues. Use opportunities through civic and service organizations such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campfire and 4-H for your child to do service projects in your community.
5. Model the actions you wish to see in your child and be willing to acknowledge and apologize for mistakes you make. Share examples of times when you felt you weren’t treated fairly and how you dealt with it.
1. Prime time. Establish a time each day that will be “prime time” where you and your child can share stories of the day, be quiet together and provide love and appreciation toward each other. You may want to post your special “appointment” on the calendar or refrigerator. Establish a guideline that you both will listen without interruption and then model quality listening as the parent. Here are some activities you can do in your “prime time:”
- take turns talking about the special events of the day; what went well and what was challenging
- share five things that you appreciate about your life
- read a favorite story together or make up one together
- learn the words of an inspiring, short poem that becomes a regular ritual to recite together
- post a picture of the two of you together in your regular meeting place as a reminder of the love that you feel for each other
- share what caring things you have seen others doing that day
2. Learning to Care. Look for opportunities to volunteer with your children. This can be as simple as taking food to an ailing neighbor, helping a senior citizen with yardwork or helping care for a young child. Students could work on a service-learning project that provides food to a food pantry, birthday or holiday gifts for those who otherwise wouldn’t have them, notes or letters to children in the hospital or visits to the elderly in residential facilities. Be sure to provide a time for them to talk to you about what they saw and what they felt like when they showed caring.
Model how a good citizen stays informed: reading the paper, listening to the news, attending local meetings of importance (including school meetings) and talking about issues as a family. When it’s election time, show your child the different resources you use to learn about candidates and issues and take your child with you when you vote.
Discuss the options available to your family to help protect and conserve the natural resources. As a family, select specific projects and identify ways that each family member can participate. For example: recycling, planting trees on special occasions, participating in a litter clean-up. These activities can provide your child with a look at the role of your family in terms of the larger community – which is what good citizenship is all about.
Help your child identify that they are citizens of many different groups. For example: family, school, faith community, their community, their country. Help them understand that being a citizen of that group carries the responsibility to follow the rules and contribute to the group. Ask the children to think about the rules they have at home. Remind them that every family is unique and that the rules may vary from one home to the next. As they mention each rule, ask them to explain why that rule is important in their household. Talk about the other groups that they are a part of, the rules and why they think they are needed.
A good citizen should know something about the history, geography, government and other aspects of his/her country. Encourage your child to know things like: the name of our Governor, the state’s capitol, what the symbols on the flag stand for, the name and words of the national anthem, what states border ours, what countries border ours, who is the mayor of our town, etc.